Sharing Your Nonprofit Impact: Practical Tips
What do you say when your funders or other stakeholders ask you, “How is your organization making a difference during COVID-19?” Today’s blog offers five suggestions for how to focus on your impact!
1. Make sure you are measuring your impact effectively.
A global pandemic does not mean that you cannot make a difference. Depending on your organization, you may be busier than ever! Use appropriate evaluation methods (e.g., surveys, focus groups) to find out how you are helping your clients navigate the pandemic. Survey your community and learn how you are (or are not!) effectively meeting their needs. For more tips on assessing client needs, be sure to visit REC’s blog on conducting needs assessments. As you collect data from your community, be sensitive to the unique backgrounds of your clients – respect individuals, their cultures, their beliefs, and their needs for privacy (AEA, 2018). Knowing your community and their needs will put your organization in a in a good position to communicate findings to your stakeholders.
2. Ensure that your organization’s priorities are aligned with your stakeholder’s priorities.
How does your organization measure success? How do your stakeholders measure success? Are these priorities the same? If not, you may want to revisit your organization’s logic model and theory of change. This evaluation tool serves as a blueprint for your organization to ensure that all inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes work together to achieve your mission and vision. If you do not have this evaluation tool, now would be a good time to create one. If you have a logic model but still feel that there is a disconnect with your funders, it may be time to update this tool. Have meaningful conversations with your stakeholders to ensure that their voices are heard and they understand how and why your priorities might have shifted during the pandemic. Ultimately, all stakeholders need to be on the same page to support impact.
3. Be creative in the tools you use to communicate your findings.
Be sure that you know your target audience and customize evaluation reports to meet their needs. Your program staff may want a more-detailed report. Your Board members may need an executive summary with key takeaways. Funders will want to see some of the statistics but also one or two human interest stories to illustrate the findings. Consider creative approaches to deliver the results, such as a short video, customized slide show, or infographics.
4. Share the “bad” results as well as the “good” results.
Many organizations are reluctant to share disappointing findings to their funders, but it is critical to present the full picture. Communicate with honesty and transparency. Be open about all results. It is okay to share that your organization you might be missing the mark or has room for improvement. Be clear about the data analysis techniques that you used, and as much as possible, use direct quotes from the clients themselves to highlight their needs. Remember that you can use these “bad” results to your advantage. For example, you can leverage these disappointing results to create awareness for how your stakeholders can be part of the solution, such as enhancing your programs or increasing capacity. You can also use these results to guide your staff in making program improvements.
5. Focus on the next steps.
Arguably, the most important section of any evaluation report is the section where you discuss next steps. Such actionable recommendations or intended actions provide take home messages from your findings, the “so what” of all your work. Quality recommendations should be relevant, compatible with your stakeholders’ values, actionable, and useful. When you show your stakeholders how your organization is impacting your clients while also developing actionable plans for the future trust will be built and stakeholders will be more willing to partner with your cause!
Need More Help?
Would you like help designing an effective evaluation strategy, creating a logic model and theory of change, or preparing an Impact Report for your stakeholders? Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with REC today!
American Evaluation Association. (2018). Guiding principles for evaluators. American Evaluation Association. Link: https://www.eval.org/About/Guiding-Principles
Baker, A. & Bruner, B. (2003). Using evaluation findings. Bruner Foundation. Link: http://www.evaluativethinking.org/docs/EvaluativeThinking.bulletin.6.pdf
Elmi, J.W. (2011). CDC Coffee break: Reporting evaluation findings to different audiences. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link: https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/pubs/docs/cb_december_13_2011.pdf
Holm-Hansen, C. (2008). Communicating evaluation results. Wilder Research. Link: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ojp/forms-documents/Documents/Wilder_Program_Evaluation_14.pdf
Hutchinson, K. (2018). Delivering negative evaluation results (part 1). AEA365: Blog of the American Evaluation Association. Link: https://aea365.org/blog/delivering-negative-evaluation-results-part-1-by-kylie-hutchinson/
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (2017). Assessing impact. Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Link: https://www.rockpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Assessing-Impact.pdf